{ French love and Classic Millefeuille }

Gooood evening, good evening, good evening.

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Welcome my lovely bloggers and bakers alike. Just over two months ago I had the lovely pleasure of having one of my dearest friends Katie, from Katie Mitchell Photography, live with me for 8 weeks. Not only did this lovely, one of kind, woman photograph my wedding, but we have also become lifelong friends, shared countless moments together laughing, crying, and driving down steep hills screaming. Anyways, enough about how awesome she is. The point is that she is currently living in Paris and has been inspiring me every day to try my hand at french pastries, tarts and cakes. Mostly because, like me, she loves her treats. All in all – it’s been a french filled couple of weeks.

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After Katie left my humble abode I went out and bought Will Torrent’s “Patisserie at home” recipe book, which can be purchased here. I cannot describe my love for this book – From the dazzling photo’s to the simple step-by-step explanations. I’ve already made three things from this book and although they may take a little longer than I usually spend on treats, they surely are delicious. Anyways, buy it – or don’t. I’m not a cop. Either way, I urge you to try out this Classic Millefueille recipe over the weekend. Luckily it is also pretty much the easiest recipe from this book.

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Millefueille’s have been winning the hearts of pastry lovers for centuries, including mine and the husbands. When I first saw the recipe I thought, “what the hell is a Millefeuille? and how can  get it in my mount right now?”. After a little bit of research it was clear that a Millefeuille was, in fact, any kind of small slice which included pastry and cream. Here in Australia we have an adaptation of something very similar called a vanilla slice, which can be purchased at most bakeries and cafe’s. So that’s what I did. I went to bakery and ate one like an animal. Not my proudest moment.

Here’s the recipe folks. Remember to savor the moment. Be French.

{ Classic Millefeuille }

Icing/Confectioners’ sugar, to dust
1 tsp vanilla essence
500 ml/2 Cups of Milk
1/2 Cup of raw cane sugar
4 Egg Yolks (the yellow)
6 Tbsp of cornflour
2 Tbsp of Butter

{ Directions }

1. Preheat overn to 190 degrees C. Prepare three baking sheets with two layers of baking paper for under the pastry and one sheet for on top. Dust the baking paper with icing sugar. This will stop the pastry from rising too much and will also help to caramelize it.
2. Lay one sheet of pastry onto each tray. Dust the top of the pastry with icing sugar as well. lay the last piece of baking paper over the top. Bake in over for 10-15 minutes, then take the baking paper off the top and bake for another 10 minutes. Pastry should come out crunchy and golden. If it still looks wet or not fully cooked, cook for another 5-10 minutes. Repeat this step for the remaining 3 pastry sheets.
3. To make the cream – Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in vanilla essence before it fully come to the boil. remember to continually stir the milk to avoid skin from forming or the milk from burning.
4. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk (by hand) the sugar, egg yolk, and cornflour together until just combined. Now add half the milk into the bowl and mix together for a few seconds. Add the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan where the remaining milk awaits.
5. Over low heat continually mix the mixture until it thickens (3-5 minutes). Once desired thickness is reached remove from stove and add the butter. Mix until butter is melted. This makes the cream glossy, but if you prefer you can opt out from using the butter at all.
6. Once the cream is cool enough for you to touch, fill a piping bag with a circular nozzle. Gently lay the sheet of baked puff pastry onto a chopping board. Using a serrated knife, cut the pastry into rectangles or squares. You will need 3 “levels” for each millefeuille. Set the best 6 looking ones aside for the top layer and dust icing sugar liberally over them.
7. Pipe the bulbs on all the cut pastry rectangles, making sure the evenly pipe them on. Build up the millefeuille’s by laying one piped rectangle on top of another and placing one reserved piece of iced pastry on top. and WHALA!
8. EAT! NOMONNOMNOMNOM.

Enjoy and spread the love.

L&S

{ What’s life without a little tea & loaf }

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Hello My lovers of scones,

I hope the day fares you all well. Although I had some bad days last week (as we all know) this week was simply pure joy. Not only was it my birthday week (because you need a whole week to celebrate, not just one day!) and I was relaxed, happy, content, and surrounded by positive vibes, but I also had a few days to bake up some delicious treats in between!

Picture this: It’s Wednesday. The day before my birthday. I’m craving some cake but I’m unable to rip into the coconut and honeycomb cake I prepared for my birthday… which is tomorrow. What to do? The day is warm, with a nice cool breeze. I need something with tea. Yes, a wholesome, earthy, healthy treat to get me through the day.

I need a date loaf.

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I contemplated this entire sequence of thought before 9am. I know, crazy right?! So I got out of bed, went straight to the kitchen and cooked up a very simple, and absolutely delicious, organic date loaf chock full of wholesome seeds and nuts. At that very moment I didn’t need my sugary, buttercream filled, birthday cake. Only this masterpiece alongside some fresh tea and a good book. I know i’ve discussed before (in my post entitles {Lemon & Coconut cake}) the importance of good cake to go with tea. It’s a treat and therefore it should always be amazing.

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So as you can imagine, my birthday week could only get better…. and it did! But more on that later! What was especially perfect about this cake is that you only need to dirty two bowls and a hand whisk to make it! I’ve never made such little mess in my kitchen before! The best thing is that you can put ANYTHING you want inside. Walnuts are a good choice for the nuts (although I used almonds as well) and for the seeds… you’re welcome to go bonkers. I also used a seed mix which included chia (i’m obsessed), barley seeds, pipitas, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. All in all, it was a great experience and will surely become a staple in my household over time.  I just hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

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{ Date, Nut & seed Loaf }

55g (4Tbsp) unsalted butter
225g organic majool dates, chopped and pitted
1 tsp vanilla essence
50g caster sugar
1 tsp baking soda
125ml boiling water
50g mixed nuts
50g mixed seeds
1 egg roughly beaten
225g self-raising flour, sieved

{ Directions }

1. Preheat oven to 160C
2. Place butter, dates, vanilla essence, caster sugar, and baking soda in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water over the contents of the bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool for 5 or so minutes.
3. In another bowl combine nuts, seeds and flour. Add flour and seeds into wet mixture along with the beaten egg. Mix well together.
4. Pour the mixture into a lined loaf/bread tin and cook for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours depending on your oven.  skewer should come out clean once done.
5. Leave the loaf in the tin for 10–15 minutes before turning out and removing paper. Let the loaf completely cool or wait until loaf is still a little warm. Cut and serve with a sprinkling of icing sugar or cream.

Read, drink tea, and enjoy the day!
L&S

{ Chocolate Macadamia Brownies & the ups and downs of life }

  Good day to you ladies and gentlemen,

Today I have been thinking a lot about trials and tribulations, success and happiness. Although this may be a forlorn topic for many of you, I became aware of the reality of life’s trials recently after being unsuccessful with an interview. To be honest, sometimes it feels as though no matter how much love and time you put into your dreams, they are always just out of reach. Such is the spectrum by which i have been measuring my happiness over the last few weeks . However, while I may have lost the opportunity to start my career, I realise now that my time spent baking sweet treats makes me happy. So remember folks, although you may not get paid, time spent doing things you love is not time wasted.

I have fun baking! there, I said it.

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I guess you can see where I’m going with this – my time spent creating a delicious batch of chocolate macadamia brownies last week was not a waste of time, but one of the happiest. It gave me happiness and pleasure, and it is now my pleasure to share it with you. Although you physically cannot stick your head into the computer, and although you may want to, you can just as easily make these yourselves and find a little happiness in the process.

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As they say, life goes on…. But brownies make life worth living! and also macadamia’s! MMMMMYUM.

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{ Chocolate Macadamia Brownie }

200g butter, softened
100g dark organic chocolate, chopped
3 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
2/3 cup plain flour
100g macadamias, roughly rushed

{ Directions }

1. Preheat over to 150C. The recipe I used suggested using a 22cm springform pan, but I decided to use a standard brownie tray lined with baking paper. You can use any shape and size you want.
2. Melt chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (not boiling). Continue stirring until the chocolate and butter is fully melted. The key here is to not burn the chocolate mixture and continuous stirring and a low simmer for the water will ensure this. Put bowl aside to cool.
3. with an electric mixer whisk eggs and caster sugar together until thick and pale. About 5 to 6 minutes.
4. Fold in chocolate mixture into egg batter. Do not whisk. Be gentle with your mixture. Love your mixture.
5. Fold in flour and macadamias. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth the brownie mixture so it evens out into the corners.
6. Bake until just firm to touch. Around 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. Cool completely in pan and cut in squares or use a cookie cutter to cut into circles.

Most importantly, Remember to enjoy your time baking. Be happy, and waste time.

L&S

{ Mixed Berry Pie }

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Good afternoon my lovely sconers,

I’m currently recovering from a business trip to Melbourne. I know what you’re thinking – Why would that make you tired? Melbourne is awesome! and I completely agree, but early/late flights mixed with a stressful job interview = tired baker. Oh so tired .:Yawn:.

After such an adventure and so much time spent planing said adventure I completely forgot about putting up the Mixed Berry Pie recipe. Over a delightful weekend we celebrated our good friends 30th birthday with a trip to a street circus performance, topped off with an Indian feast. I (naturally) offered to shower our dear friend in many kinds of sweets, but he was adamant that his favorite kind of cake was in fact pie. Now I’ve never made a sweet pie. In fact, I’m not a big fan of sweet pie at all. But whatever the birthday boy wants, he gets.

I went into this pie adventure thinking it would be hard and stressful. Boy was I wrong! Not only was the crust super easy – but so was the filling. It was just lovely to be making something I had no desire to taste before it was baked. Usually I “misplace” large portions of raw cookie dough or batter. You know, for science.

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I mixed a few recipes up for the crust and the insides. I used frozen berries as well as fresh blueberries and strawberries to help fill it all up to the rim. This is a summer delight that will tingle the tastebuds and can be served hot or cold, with cream or ice-cream.

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{ Hazelnut Pastry }

175 g softened butter
3 Tbsp cold vegetable shortening
150 g icing sugar, sieved
1 2/3 cups plain flour
Handful of crushed raw hazelnuts
2 tsp ground cinnamon

{ Directions }

1. Beat butter, shortening, and icing sugar in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy (4-5 minutes). Add remaining ingredients and mix until just combined. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (2 hours).
2. Separate pastry into two balls. Roll one half of the hazelnut pastry to 3mm-thick on a lightly floured piece of baking paper and line a 24cm-diameter tart tin. Trim edges and refrigerate until firm (30 minutes). Roll out remaining dough on a lightly floured piece of baking paper to a rough 24cm-long rectangle, place on an oven tray and refrigerate until firm (30 minutes).
3. Preheat over to 180C

{ Berry Filling }

1 Packet frozen mixed berries (500g)
1/2 small punnet of fresh strawberries
1 small punnet of fresh blueberries
70 g raw caster sugar
30 g cornflour

{ Directions }

1. Combine berries and strawberries, sugar, and cornflour in a bowl. Let the mixture sit for roughly 15 minutes to let the frozen berries thaw a little. Add mixture into the pie.
2. Cut remaining pastry lengthways into 12mm-thick strips and form a lattice pattern over mixture, trimming overhanging ends. Bake until crisp and golden (30-35 minutes), cool in tin for 30 minutes then remove and cool to room temperature. If you prefer you can dust the pie with icing sugar or serve with your own treats.

ENJOY!

L&S

{ Raw Cocoa Date Balls }

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Hello Ladies and Gentlemen!

A while ago, during one of my usual rants, I was quick to point you in the direction on one of my favourite wholefood blogs: My New Roots. This blog has not only inspired me to take on new challenges within the kitchen but it has given me a deeper appreciation of raw and whole foods. Playing on the idea of raw goodness and my love of nuts, coconut, and seeds I experimented with the concept of using organic dates and raw cocoa to create some date balls. Which – if I say so myself – are DELICIOUS! I choose to use medjool dates, which you can now buy in any major supermarket or local grocer, because they are naturally sweet, versatile, and complex.

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The concept here, once again, is to start with a basic recipe and add in whatever you feel like. Whatever your heart desires. I have shared these treats with many friends and family and they all love it! Not only are they super easy and quick to make, but they last forever, can be frozen, and are a great treat with tea or as a light snack to re-energize yourself during the day. They can also be used as a replacement in your diet if you’re finding it hard to ween off the sugary stuff!

Just a word of warning – if you know your food processor is weak (which mine is!), then make sure you cut up the dates or pre-blend them in the processor before you add them to the nuts.

{ Raw Cocoa Date Balls }

250g – 380g of medjool dates
1 – 2 Cups of mixed nuts (or whichever nuts you prefer)
3 – 5 Tbsp of organic raw cocoa
1 Tbsp of organic almond spread (or any other nut spread except for peanut)
1 tsp of water

{ My extra Ingredients } – usually 1Tbsp

chia seeds
organic honey
goji berries
sesame seeds
shaved coconut (+ extra for rolling)

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{ Directions }
1. Place nuts in food processor and pulse 2-3 times until nuts are finely ground. Remove the seeds from the dates and set aside
2. Add the raw cacao and pulse to combine. Add in extra ingredients during this time and combine well.
3. Add the dates one at a time, making sure to blend well each time. Add almond spread and water and pulse to combine. What you should end up with is a mix that appears rather like slightly wet cake crumbs and can be rolled into balls.
4. Roll mixture into small or medium sized balls.
5. Pour the extra coconut a bowl and gently roll each ball through the coconut making sure to thoroughly coat each one.
6. Place in fridge until ready to serve or store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Thanks for reading this week folks. Enjoy your naturally sweet treat!

L&S

{ Mini Lemon Cupcakes }

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Hello fellow food lovers!

I hope all thee far well. This week has been hectic. Surprisingly I have come through unscathed and with a fridge full of mini lemon cupcakes! any week that ends in mini cupcakes is alright in my book. Speaking of – although my week was hectic I still found the time finish ready a book trilogy as well as bake some fresh bread, snuggle my kitty, and go on a faux-zombie/apocalyptic adventure here in Brisbane. Not working 9 to 5 has its perks!

Although my life may seem like fun, underneath lurks the bitter battle of progress. At the moment I’m searching for jobs in museums/galleries and trying to break through the overwhelming fact that I’m no longer a student. I no longer participate in lectures and heated conversations about history and politics. I am no longer allowed to research and study for the sole purpose of concisely articulating 20,000 words of knowledge into a mere 5,000 word essay. And most painful of all, I no longer get student prices at my local cinema. Indeed life is a struggle at the moment, but when I bake, or garden, or sit on the grass and have some tea, watching the world pass by, I know I will survive this “limbo” phase of my life and move onto better things.

Anyway, enough about me! How are you? Although I have no way of knowing your response to this question I know deep down inside you are all ecstatic about these mini lemon cupcakes! and if you’re not – you should be! My husband has now nearly eaten them all and I blame it on the size. Eating four in a row just doesn’t seem like your eating a whole muffin sized cupcake. Be warned.

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{ Mini Lemon Cupcakes }

1-1/2 Cups (190 g) self-rising flour
1-1/4 Cups (160 g) plain flour
1 Cup  (227 g) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 Cups (400 g) caster sugar
2 Tsp of grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 Large eggs, at room temperature
1 Cup milk
1 Tsp pure vanilla

{ Vanilla buttercream frosting }

340 g unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
3.5 Cups (400 g) icing sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp thickened cream
1 Tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

{ Directions }

1. Preheat over to 175° C
2. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside
3. With your electric mixer cream the butter on medium speed until smooth and almost pale. Gradually add the caster sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. This usually takes between 5-8 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Once the egg in incorporated add the vanilla and beat on low until just combined.
4. Add the ingredients from the dry bowl into the wet mixture. Make sure to do this in 3 parts, alternating with the milk. Finally incorporate lemon zest and juice and mix with a spatula until just combined.
5. Using a small spoon, spoon the batter into mini cupcake tin (with liners). Make sure you don’t overfill the mini cupcake liners. While it is tempting to fill each liner, between half way and 3/4 of the way is enough to allow for rising and will still them from over-spilling.
6. Put them in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes depending on the oven. Because they are small they will cook fast. I recommend taking the cupcakes out before they start to turn “golden”. This will ensure they are nice a soft and do not burn at the bottom
7. Cool the cupcakes in tins for 10 minutes and then remove from tins and cool completely before icing.

{ Buttercream Directions }

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed. Butter will become very pale & creamy.
2. Add the thickened cream to butter, along with all remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
3. (optional) Add 2 drops of yellow food colouring along with 1/2 a drop of red food colouring to create a pale apricot affect to the buttercream.

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L&S

{ Blueberry Lovin’ }

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Hello dear friends,

Apologies for not blogging for some time. I recently completed my Masters thesis, graduated, and went on a beautiful holiday with my lovely husband. All in all, life has been good… who am I kidding it’s been AMAZING! We had a whirlwind adventure in the America wilderness, then through the deserts of Utah and Arizona, topped of with a two week stay with my lovely in-laws in the beautiful Okanagan (in Canada). It was a good break from life and reality if biting hard again and yet the experiences we’ve had are still staying with us, for example I’m no longer effected by sheer hatred and road rage when driving. America taught me that everyone is trying to get somewhere in life and unfortunetly sharing the journey, or the roads that they happen on, is mandatory. Good food for thought there people!

So here I am taking on  a new “zen” approach in my life.

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I have to say that the highlight for me… and you’re going to think I’m crazy… was the sheer amount of blueberries one can purchase in America and Canada. Packets the size of your head! and I’m not over exaggerating! It’s safe to say that my blueberry consumption reached maximum level and I thank the universe that my husband make me feel beautiful even when my lips were blue and my clothes were stained with blueberry juice. He’s a keeper!

Although blueberries tend to cost an arm and a leg here in Australia, I always try my damn hardest to buy some whenever I can. They’re choc-full of antioxidants and all that healthy gewy stuff that just makes you feel light and fluffy. During my weekly trip to the local farmers markets this morning I bargained my little heart out and bought two small packets. As soon as I arrived home we whipped up a batch of Blueberry and Banana smoothy. Geez was it good!

I thought I would start the blog with something easy and wholesome. I mean, who doesn’t like a good smoothy!? Crazy people, that’s who. The recipe is easy to change or add to – essentially you can put whatever you want in the smoothy as long as you try and pair the flavors right. Blueberry and banana goes particularly well together I think.

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{ Blueberry/Banana Smoothy }

1 Small Punnet of Blueberries

1 Large Banana

1 Single serve Tub of Vanilla Yoghurt

1 Cup of Milk

2 Small Scoops of Vanilla Ice-Cream (any type)

1 Tbsp of Chia Seeds

{ Directions }

1. Add all ingredients in blender and mix until desired consistency is reached.

2. Enjoy 🙂

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Since it is now spring here in sunny Queensland I’ll leave you with this – Be happy, be kind, and if all else fails start a nut farm.

Sandy xo

{ Lemon & Lavender Shortbread }

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Since my last blog I have been recovering from the flu and I’m getting better every day. To keep myself off the couch and moving I decided to make my famous Lavender and Lemon Shortbread Cookies. Not that they are really that famous – but my family and friends enjoy them a lot and I can’t complain; I bake, they eat – It’s beautiful. My lovely friend, Katie, moved to Paris a few weeks ago and left me some culinary lavender. Little did she know I would go crazy for it, just as she had. Although it is important not to be too generous with the amount of lavender you add into any dessert/cookie/cake dish, because a little goes a long way, any little bit of lavender adds a beautiful aroma and creates a tasty, tasty treat. I also am still in possession of an abundance of  fresh lemons (and just inherited five more limes from a friends backyard!) and as such this easy recipe was the perfect way to get myself off the coach and into the kitchen. I have also been drinking copious amounts of fresh lemon and ginger tea – nothing is going to waste!!!

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Upon recently purchasing this set of vintage style cookie cutters, I’ve been going completely mental for cookies! It’s an addiction, and I hope it never ends. My husband benefits the most from this because I know cookie’s are in his top 10 list of great loves – bakery goods being number 1. We certainly are a special family.

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Anyways, below is the recipe with a few handy hints on getting the best kind of shortbread cookies.

Be warm, Be cozy, and when life gives you lemons – make cookies!

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{ Lemon & Lavender Shortbread Cookies }

1 Cup (227 g) good quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 Cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp dried culinary lavender
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1 1/2 Cups  all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup cornstarch (corn flour)
1/4  tsp salt

{ Directions}

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on low to medium speed until it is smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. In a separate bowl add together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  2. Add the caster sugar and beat for another 3 minutes until white and smooth. During this stage, also add in the vanilla extract. In the same bowl gently stir in the dried lavender and lemon zest (do not beat in).
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix gently until they are incorporated. The best technique to use is to fold and push the batter down onto itself.  At this stage the dough will be incredibly light and fluffy. Keep in mind that it will not seem like a thick and heavy dough at this stage, but more like a much thicker batch of cake-like batter. It’s hard to explain but you’ll understand once you incorporate the dry ingredients.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball on a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap it up. Once in the wrap, flatten the dough into a disk and chill for one hour (at least). I usually chill mine for 1-2 hours depending on how hungry I am. But the anywhere in the 1 1/2 hour mark is good.
  5. When you’re ready to roll and cut the cookie dough, preheat oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or two baking mats.
  6. Roll the dough to whatever thick on a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of parchment paper. Cut desired shapes. This recipe usually yields around 2o cookies, so make sure you have at least two baking trays lined with parchment paper ready.
  7. The recipe I used indicates 8-10 minutes as a good amount of time to bake these lovely treats, but I prefer my shortbread cookies less crunchy and more “melt in your mouth”. To achieve this delicious effect I usually leave them in the oven for around 5-6 minutes, but no longer than 6. The cookies will come out quite white and soft and you’ll wonder whether I’ve tricked you into eating raw cookie dough, but I haven’t! If you prefer my way then let cookies cool on the sheets or on a wire rack until they become firmer. Cooling cakes and cookies  before you disturb them ensures that they are less likely to break or fall apart

Cookies can be kept in an airtight container for about 1 week.

{ Lemon & Lavender Shortbread }

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Since my last blog I have been recovering from the flu and I’m getting better every day. To keep myself off the couch and moving I decided to make my famous Lavender and Lemon Shortbread Cookies. Not that they are really that famous – but my family and friends enjoy them a lot and I can’t complain; I bake, they eat – It’s beautiful. My lovely friend, Katie, moved to Paris a few weeks ago and left me some culinary lavender. Little did she know I would go crazy for it, just as she had. Although it is important not to be too generous with the amount of lavender you add into any dessert/cookie/cake dish, because a little goes a long way, any little bit of lavender adds a beautiful aroma and creates a tasty, tasty treat. I also am still in possession of an abundance of  fresh lemons (and just inherited five more limes from a friends backyard!) and as such this easy recipe was the perfect way to get myself off the coach and into the kitchen. I have also been drinking copious amounts of fresh lemon and ginger tea – nothing is going to waste!!!

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Upon recently purchasing this set of vintage style cookie cutters, I’ve been going completely mental for cookies! It’s an addiction, and I hope it never ends. My husband benefits the most from this because I know cookie’s are in his top 10 list of great loves – bakery goods being number 1. We certainly are a special family.

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Anyways, below is the recipe with a few handy hints on getting the best kind of shortbread cookies.

Be warm, Be cozy, and when life gives you lemons – make cookies!

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{ Lemon & Lavender Shortbread Cookies }

1 Cup (227 g) good quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 Cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp dried culinary lavender
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1 1/2 Cups  all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup cornstarch (corn flour)
1/4  tsp salt

{ Directions}

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on low to medium speed until it is smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. In a separate bowl add together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  2. Add the caster sugar and beat for another 3 minutes until white and smooth. During this stage, also add in the vanilla extract. In the same bowl gently stir in the dried lavender and lemon zest (do not beat in).
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix gently until they are incorporated. The best technique to use is to fold and push the batter down onto itself.  At this stage the dough will be incredibly light and fluffy. Keep in mind that it will not seem like a thick and heavy dough at this stage, but more like a much thicker batch of cake-like batter. It’s hard to explain but you’ll understand once you incorporate the dry ingredients.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball on a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap it up. Once in the wrap, flatten the dough into a disk and chill for one hour (at least). I usually chill mine for 1-2 hours depending on how hungry I am. But the anywhere in the 1 1/2 hour mark is good.
  5. When you’re ready to roll and cut the cookie dough, preheat oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or two baking mats.
  6. Roll the dough to whatever thick on a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of parchment paper. Cut desired shapes. This recipe usually yields around 2o cookies, so make sure you have at least two baking trays lined with parchment paper ready.
  7. The recipe I used indicates 8-10 minutes as a good amount of time to bake these lovely treats, but I prefer my shortbread cookies less crunchy and more “melt in your mouth”. To achieve this delicious effect I usually leave them in the oven for around 5-6 minutes, but no longer than 6. The cookies will come out quite white and soft and you’ll wonder whether I’ve tricked you into eating raw cookie dough, but I haven’t! If you prefer my way then let cookies cool on the sheets or on a wire rack until they become firmer. Cooling cakes and cookies  before you disturb them ensures that they are less likely to break or fall apart

Cookies can be kept in an airtight container for about 1 week.

{ Bread Raisin’ & Raisins }

Yesterday I discussed my love for winter, but today I hate it! Yes people, you heard me. I went from being the lady queen of winter to the groggy mess sitting on the couch with ten empty cups of tea cups in front of her, five boxes of Kleenex, and a cat who’s too lazy to make me some goddamn porridge.

In hindsight I’m so glade I had the chance to bake warm, toasty bread yesterday. Since discovering my new-found love of homemade basics – such as bread and pasta – I’ve been baking bread every week for my dear husband. Mind you I don’t use a bread machine! Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I like my breads crunchy and to come in all different shapes and sizes. Not to mention that I come from a long line of aggressive kneaders; It’s in my blood… and my arms.

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Bread is pretty simple to make and lasts all week in the cupboard wrapped in a tea towel. So even if you’re a family of one or ten, taking the time to make fresh bread is a must. Not only is it fresh and all those nasty preservatives are nowhere to be seen, it also has the advantage of allowing you to experiment with various flavors, shapes, and densities. You can add in anything you want, and that’s the beauty of it.

I’ve learned a lot over the last few months about the ins and outs of bread baking. After many trial and errors I found a website which explained how to bake good bread very simply. Gourmet Dough is a simple online blog about the basics of cooking bread. In the early stages of my bread trials they seemed to always turn out too dense, and too floury. I found out, water and yeast content are the keys to a successful batch. Adding more water to any bread makes it softer, while yeast content delivers various sizes. The website also offers some handing hints on how to knead bread properly (by hand) for those that want to take the dive.

Anyways, back to whats important here – I’m sick, and there’s nothing more I like when I’m sick then yummy, warm, raisin toast. So while I was preparing a gigantic bread loaf I set aside some dough (roughly two handfuls) and made some raisin toast. And OH how delicious it was this morning… yum, yum, yum.

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So here’s the basic wholemeal bread recipe and a little extra raisin goodness for those who are experiencing the downfalls of winter at the moment (or not).

be Cozy, be warm, don’t get sick, and enjoy your fresh bread!

{ Wholemeal Bread }

600g Wholemeal bread flour

450g Lukewarm water

2 Tbsp (large) Dried yeast

Pinch of Salt

Pinch of Sugar

{ Directions }

1. Do not preheat over yet. I’ve made that mistake too many times!

2. Put flour in a bowl and make a crater in the center. Add in the yeast and around 2/3 of the water. I like to add in my pinches of salt and sugar now to activate the yeast. Start  musing it all together with your hands.  gradually add the rest of the water. I always love this part because I find we rarely use our hands to create anything these days. Anyways, once you’ve had your fun squishing all of the ingredient together dust a clean surface with flour and start the kneading process!

Kneading involves stretching the dough which lengthens the gluten strands that will hold the air as it rises producing a light and airy loaf. The classic way of kneading is to stretch the dough out in front of you, fold it back in on itself, give it a quarter turn and repeat this process of stretching and folding for about ten minutes or until you get a smooth and elastic dough. The above method is the traditional English way and can be viewed in the flowing youtube video.  However the French have a very different method which involves picking the dough up and slapping it down, stretching it and then folding it back onto itself and can be viewed in this video. If you choose to wet your dough more to make it more fluffy and light, then use the second method, but in all other instances use the first.. This method makes soft, light and airy bread. Be recessional on the amount of flour you use on your counter-top when kneading. When you add flour you are messing with the ratio of flour to water in the dough. The more flour a dough contains the more dense the bread will be.

So the most important question: How do I know when it has been kneaded enough? With experience you will get to know when the dough has been kneaded enough. The appearance of the dough will change from rough to smooth and elastic. So with time you will just know when it is ready. In general it should take about 10 minutes. Keep in mind though that wholemeal bread will still have many bumps and lumps in it and won’t end up as smooth as normal white dough bread – generally the rule i go buy is that the kneading is done after 10 minutes and when I can stretch the dough and it forms a small whole in the center without tearing apart the rest of the dough.

4. It’s time to allow the dough to rise! This has to be the easiest part because you really don’t have to do anything. Form the dough into a ball, flour the bowl you used previously and plonk it in there. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow the dough to sit for at least an hour. I usually wait until it’s roughly twice the size. Gourmet dough recommends allowing the dough to rise away from direct light and in a cool place. Although it is always recommended to allow the dough to rise in a warm place, cooler temperatures when rising allows the flavors to fully form. But its up to you. It’s cold here, so it took a lot longer than usual (2 hours).

5. Now you can preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Lightly dust a surface with flour again, because its time to air out the dough. To do this I simply throw the dough (with force) onto the counter from above – literally taking the air out of it. Do this two or three times and then put it in a oiled baking tin or alternatively, and my favorite practice, shape the dough lightly with your hands (I.e. the dough can be circular or in the shape of a football) without disturbing it too much and bake it on a ceramic/or/terracotta pizza base. This allows the bread to form into natural shapes and allows for the heated plate to distribute heat through the center of the bread.

6. Cook for 30-50 minutes depending on the oven. Bread should be done when it’s golden on the outside and it sounds hollow (airy) when you tap it. Take bread out of the oven and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes. I’ve learnt that cutting into bread straight away is a big no no because it releases all the air inside the bread and it can deflate – BE WARNED.

{ Raisin’ Some Raisin Toast }

Essentially with the 1/3 left over from my bread making adventure last night  I added the following to make some raisin toast:

2 Tbsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp nutmeg

1/4 Cup of raisins

{ Directions }

1: simply add these ingredients towards the end of the kneading process. Make sure the ingredients are well combined with the dough and the raisins are distributed. Follow the rest of the above directions and you’ll have a wonderful time.

Note: Smaller amounts of bread will require a smaller amount of time in the over. This bread took only 20-30 minutes.